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Tips for talking about mental health with workers

Date posted
19 January 2024
Emma Haynes
Estimated reading time
3 minute read

On 01 February 2024, the UK will hold the nation’s biggest annual mental health conversation, Time to Talk Day.

Run by the UK charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, the day raises awareness of the importance of open conversations around mental health.

The Health and Safety Executive reported that nearly two million workers in Great Britain reported suffering ill-health as a result of their work in 2022/23, with around half these cases due to stress, depression or anxiety.

As well as workers who report mental ill-health, there may well be many individuals who have experiences and symptoms that employers are not aware of.

Talking about mental health with colleagues can be challenging, particularly as many worry about the stigma and prejudice that may come as a consequence of sharing their issues. If this results in workers not seeking the support they need, it can create more complex health needs.

We’ve put together some tips from our Managing Occupational Health and Wellbeing course to help you start to change lives this Time to Talk Day.

It's time to talk

Our course recommends that one way of improving mental ill-health in the workplace can be an open, one-to-one discussion, as advocated by Time to Talk Day. Here are some tips around the best approach that you can use and share.

Offer reassurance. Be mindful that not everyone will want to talk straight away. Let them know what support is available and that when they feel able to talk, support will be there.

When someone is ready to talk, choose an appropriate place, somewhere private and quiet. Find an environment that will put the person at ease, either at work or outside of work.

  • Encourage people to talk – ask simple, open questions and let them speak in their own words.
  • Ask what they think may be the cause of their feelings, how it affects their life and work, and what support they are getting or need.
  • Don’t make assumptions. They may not need help or may feel they are able to manage.
  • Support might only be needed every now and again, during difficult periods.
  • Listen carefully. Make sure that the person, and not their problem, is the focus. Adapt the support to suit them, involve them in finding solutions and check what workplace adjustments you can offer before you have the conversation.
  • Ensure confidentiality so that they know what is said will be kept as confidential as possible. If you feel you need to share the information with specific people, such as HR, make sure you get the person’s agreement first.
  • Develop an individual action plan that suits the person and their needs. It can help to identify triggers, impacts on work, who to contact in a crisis, what support they need and also ways to monitor things.
  • Encourage the person to seek help themselves – many organisations have employee assistance programmes that can offer counselling or access to helplines.
  • Seek advice and support from HR or occupational health if you feel unable to offer the support and advice needed.
  • Be honest and clear. If there are concerns about high absence levels or low performance, these need to be addressed at an early stage.

Last updated: 02 February 2024

Emma Haynes

Job role
Content Officer


  • Health and wellbeing
  • People and workforce
  • Strategy and influence